The demonized Gerasene and the paganized Greek: eschatological allegory in Mark 5:1-20

In an effort to interpret history through a Christian lens the evangelists sometimes indulge in anachronistic portraiture of Jesus; that is, they retroject the experience of the believing community back into Jesus' ministry. John's depiction of Jesus as a master of extended discourse and debate, for instance, is more reflective of the late 1st century … Continue reading The demonized Gerasene and the paganized Greek: eschatological allegory in Mark 5:1-20

Playing the waiting game: the theatrics of Jesus’ healings

A number of Gospel stories reveal that Jesus sometimes delayed his healing work. On two such occasions Jesus' failure to appear resulted in death. In one instance, following a summons from Martha and Mary to heal their sick brother, Jesus "remained two days longer in the place where he was" (John 11:1-6). As expected, by … Continue reading Playing the waiting game: the theatrics of Jesus’ healings

Diseased demons: spirits as agents of illness

As modern science has advanced, belief-systems that attribute human welfare and suffering to the scheming of angels and demons have retreated in equal proportion. Few Christians today would procure an exorcist to alleviate a crippled spine, for instance. Even in cases of extreme antisocial behavior, activity traditionally attributed to malevolent spirits, most modern Christians are … Continue reading Diseased demons: spirits as agents of illness

Nazareth witch trials: the problem of the returning spirit

When the unclean spirit has gone out of a person, it wanders through arid regions looking for a resting place, but it finds none. Then it says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ When it comes, it finds it empty, swept, and put in order. Then it goes and brings along … Continue reading Nazareth witch trials: the problem of the returning spirit

Putting Satan in his historical-political place

In a comment on my post Did Christ strike the serpent's head, my friend abondarenko01 questioned my claim that the Leviathan myth could generate the link between Satan and snakes in early Christian texts like Luke 10:19, Romans 16:20, Mark 16:18, Acts 28:3-6, and 1 Corinthians 15:32. He notes that while Leviathan is an aquatic … Continue reading Putting Satan in his historical-political place

“He could do no mighty work”

And [Jesus] could do no mighty work there, except that he laid his hands on a few sick people and healed them. And he was amazed at their unbelief. (Mark 6:5-6) And he did not do many mighty works there, because of their unbelief. (Matthew 13:58) Matthew's subtle redaction of Mark here and elsewhere has … Continue reading “He could do no mighty work”

Son of David: healer extraordinaire?

Among those Jews in the Greek and Roman periods who expected a Messiah, most expected him to be a son of David. This Davidic Messiah would be a new and better David; he would obey God, judge among the people of Israel, and take control of the surrounding nations. Israel would finally be safe, prosperous, … Continue reading Son of David: healer extraordinaire?

Legion and the revenge of the Giants

A tale of three strong men: Satan, Babylon, and Rome On a few occasions Jesus attempts to clarify what his exorcistic ministry really means. On one of those occasions he claims the expulsion of demons proves that God's kingdom has drawn near (Matthew 12:28, Luke 11:20). On another occasion, Jesus' spiritual success is said to … Continue reading Legion and the revenge of the Giants

Signs of the kingdom: the dispossession of Legion

Crises in heaven and earth The coupling of political realities with spiritual realities is a hallmark of Jewish apocalyptic. In such works the heavenly stage is reflected upon the earthly stage. Examples of this relationship are numerous: disturbances in the heavens spell disaster for the earth, the unrolling of heavenly scrolls ensures the pouring out … Continue reading Signs of the kingdom: the dispossession of Legion